Lots of Famous People, Like Usher And Taylor Swift, Are Calling For Juneteenth To Be A National Holiday
Today is June 19th, aka Juneteenth, a holiday that calls for both celebration and sobering reflection, while examining the history (and ongoing history still being written) regarding slavery in America. My Canadian public school education failed to teach me that slavery wasn’t technically abolished until June 19th, 1865, when slaves in Texas were finally made aware of the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier. Juneteenth has been observed since 1866, and was more widely recognized starting in the 1970s, but the conversation around Juneteenth is significantly louder this year, due to the ongoing activism surrounding Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests. And according to some people, like Usher and Taylor Swift, it’s high time Juneteenth became an officially recognized national holiday in the United States.
Usher (Usher Usher) recently wrote an op-ed about Juneteenth for The Washington Post, which was posted today. Usher has been celebrating Juneteenth for a long time and says he went public with his support for the holiday back in 2015 when he attended the Essence Music Festival wearing a t-shirt with the Fourth of July crossed out and Juneteenth written in its place. Here he is wearing said shirt:
— Dani Dunn (@NoJokeDee) September 15, 2016
Usher stresses the importance of recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday, because he sees it as literally the least the country can do to help start acknowledging America’s issues with systematic racism.
“Recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday would be a small gesture compared with the greater social needs of black people in America. But it can remind us of our journey toward freedom, and the work America still has to do.”
Juneteenth has been recognized as an official holiday in Texas, but Usher wants that extended to all the states. Although he doesn’t necessarily need everyone to get the day off. Usher, no! What’s a national holiday if you still have to clock in and out? This isn’t National Donut Day or Toyotathon, it’s Juneteenth.
“We could observe it, as many black Americans already do, by celebrating both our first step toward freedom as black people in America and also the many contributions to this land: the construction of Black Wall Street; the invention of jazz, rock n’ roll, hip-hop and R&B; and all the entrepreneurship and business brilliance, extraordinary cuisine, sports excellence, political power and global cultural influence black Americans have given the world.”
It’s not just Texas that recognizes Juneteenth. Several states have decided to make it an official holiday, like in Virginia, who announced on June 16th that Juneteenth would be a state holiday, with the help of Pharrell Williams (Pharrell was born in Virginia). Unlike Usher, Pharrell does want to see people get a paid day off work.
“This is about proper recognition. This is the chance for our government, our corporations and our citizens to all stand in solidarity with their African-American brothers and sisters…I would like to see corporations that call Virginia their home give people the paid day off. There is no turning back. We are only moving one direction now: forward.”
Lupita Nyong’o has also called for it to be a national holiday, as has George Takei:
— Lupita Nyong'o (@Lupita_Nyongo) June 19, 2020
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) June 19, 2020
And Taylor Swift continues to be dedicated to her brand shift as a politically active and aware popstar. Taylor shared a message about Juneteenth, originally posted by journalist Danielle Young and The Root, to her 135 million Instagram followers. This comes about a week after Taylor used her Instagram account to publicly call for the Capitol Commission to tear down the monuments to Edward W. Carmack (who was pro lynching), and Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrrest, which both stand in Nashville, Tennessee. Taylor says she’s given all her employees the day off today, and promises to use today to further educate herself. Danielle educates everyone on Juneteenth’s history as the Black community’s Independence Day.
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I want to thank @the.root and @thedanielleyoung for allowing me to post this video about the significance of today, June 19th, and why it should be celebrated as a National holiday. Personally, I’ve made the decision to give all of my employees June 19th off in honor of Freedom Day from now on, and to continue to educate myself on the history that brought us to this present moment. For my family, everything that has transpired recently gives us an opportunity to reflect, listen, and reprogram any part of our lives that hasn’t been loudly and ferociously anti-racist, and to never let privilege lie dormant when it could be used to stand up for what’s right.
I don’t know how Taylor plans to see to it that Juneteenth becomes the kind of holiday where you can skip out on work without getting your boss’ permission first. But I hope she puts her best asset to work – calling out people – to make sure it happens. Taylor should channel all her energy into a series of emails and letters, and maybe even a couple voice mails that say, “Usually I don’t like to fight over the phone, but I’m willing to make an exception. Where are we at on making Juneteenth a national holiday.”